Readers respond, what should i plant next?

So the garden is all tilled u p. It tilled up beautifully! Every year with the addition of more and more manure the soild gets better and better. Each year it is darker and richer obvious by just sight alone. I planted Peas, Garlic, Yellow neck squash, lettuce, carrots, and some Zucchini squash. 

 In this blog, I want to ask you, the readers, what you would like to see me grow. I always grow our main staples and family favorites, and every year i try a new thing or three. Last year I tried rainbow carrots, Pac Choi, and gourds. It is still early enough this season that any addition would be able to either be planted right away or early enough to wait a month or so until it needs planting. So feel free to chiume in folks, your ideas are certainly welcome, and you can read baout your choices progress as they grow. Very excited to hear from all of you.

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Fruit Tree Pruning

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It’s February now, and in some parts of the country probably still an acceptable time to prune fruit trees. Here in the Pacific Northwest however it is a little late for pruning. I did all our fruit trees in the first week of January. You want to try to time heavy pruning with tree’s dormancy. This way it will not effect their health or growth near as much. I was looking out side at my pruned trees, now covered in lovely buds which will this year be new growth, and it made me think a little. I had a father who was very good about explaining fruit tree pruning, and every year I was helping him outside in the bitter cold, getting first hand experience when i was growing up. I realized,however, probably not everybody grew up on a farm like i did, and probably did not have all those wonderful years of experience. How can other people learn if people like us never tell them? So, I thought I would write a blog for every one that has ever wondered how to prune fruit trees. 

    This will be like a tree pruning 101. There are so many factors, goals, desires, tricks, and different ways of doing things for pruning that really it mostly depends on a balance of what you know and what you are wanting out of your tree.

    The basic first step in tree pruning is shape. How do you want your tree shaped? Most trees you will want a kind of umbrella shape, for easily obtainable sunlight for the fruit, and also for easier harvesting. If you are starting with a fairly young tree, then you can decide how tall it will be by cutting out the top at the desired height, where new growth will grow a for next year. Determine the height you desire, and the general shape, and general size (circumference), and keep that vision in your head while you prune.

 Next, grab your cutting tools. (shears, loppers, a pruning saw maybe) and start thinning out unwanted growth. If a branch is totally undesirable then cut it off as close to the trees trunk as you can. If most of the branch is ok, or you want to start a new growth into a branch, then you prune the branch into how you want it to grow. Keep the part you want, and cut off the extra. Now here is where it gets kind of tricky. anything unwanted gets totally cut off and removed, but if the branch lets say has potential, but no small fruit bearing areas or “spurs”, then save desired new growth from last year, cut if off about 1/2 to 3/4 inch past a bud. Picking the right bud is the trick. The key is, which ever direction a bud is pointing, that is the direction the new growth will grow this year. For example: a bud on the left of a branch pointing out, will grow to the left and out, a bud pointing up will grow up, a bud pointing down will grow downward, and so on. So just remember when you are shaping a tree, those buds that you leave for the new growth MUST be pointed in the direction that your vision of the tree requires.

    And as i said before, for best results and sun collection I shape my fruit trees like an umbrella. Other trees that are for shade, lumber, etc. are generally shaped in more of a triangle, where a fruit tree is more of an upside down triangle. Remember you are not wanting to grow a 50′ tall apple tree, the fruit would be 30′ above your head and serve you no good.

 

 

Preserving Food, Food and More Food. Tis the Season!

Hi every one, Tis the end of the week for the week of 8-18-13. WOW time has flown! We have been busy with the garden and canning season as usual. We tried a few new things this year! and are planning a few more new tries for food preservation.  One thing I did was with onions.  On the Farm here we cook with lots and lots of onions. More times than not we end up dicing them and adding them into casseroles, meat loaf, soups and stews, chilis, etc. I figured since we dice them any ways I took my white onions i pulled from the garden and I shredded them in the food processor. I then put them in freezer backs (double bagged), and hand sucked out all the air for longer freezer life (this was last Sunday, and our local market was closed so could not purchase more Vacuum seal bags like we normally use. At any rate, so now we have a shelf in the door of the freezer full of finely diced white onions out of our garden. When placing in the bags for freezing i did not measure the volumes out, but I would be guessing each bag to be a cup to a cup and a half.  It worked out great, i am very pleased with the results. I will certainly do the same next year with Vacuum seal bags being the only change. I used a bag the other night, and after being frozen they did not turn a funny color or anything like that, they were great. A little soft yes, but for cooking with who cares, as they get soft when cooked any ways.

 And on to other food storages; My wife went to her parents farm up the road and got their Pears and Apples.  Our farm being as young as it is Only 3 years old now, our fruit trees are in, but are still very young and small and not really producing any kind of fruit yet.  Luckily both sets of my wifes and my parents have farms, fruit trees, and we have tons of rescources to draw on for fruit that once they put up all they need would usually just goto waste any ways. So, long story short, she brought home and canned 15 quarts of pears. Not my favorites personally, but the rest of the family enjoys pears, so if it keeps them happy in the winter then by all means. She cans them in a light syrup. Apples will be peeled, cored and processed after church today. Wife and daughter wants apple sauce. I personally really enjoy canning apples in round slices, and spicing them. MMMM MMMM. But….. having a feeling i will get out-voted and applesauce it will be.  Regardless, we have 3 large boxes of apples for which ever, and my fathers apple trees are starting to drop apples too, so will end up with another 5-6 boxes from him as well.  Extra apples, pears, peelings, cores, left over syrups, etc all goto the pig. All the sugar and such makes a very very happy pig, and fattens them up nicely so makes for happy happy farmers as well.

Yesterday we took a drive to Newport, my favorite coastal town here in Oregon. It’s Tuna season, and alot of fishing ships will pull into Newport Bay, dock up, set up for sale signs, and sell fresh caught Tuna, crab and Salmon right there off the ship. Just bled out, not frozen at all. Doesn’t get any fresher than that! Literally handed to you from the fisherman that caught it an hour or two ago.  So while we were down there, the kids of course went to the beach, built sand castles, played in the ocean, flew kites, and all that good fun stuff. Then we went to the Dock at the Bay, and bought 2 Large fresh Tuna.  Brought the fish home, processed them, and canned them. I don’t remember the exact recipe, but in basic rememberance of it, for each pint jar you fill it to the bottom ring line with Tuna, and add 1/2 teasoon salt, and 1 teaspoon olive oil Per every PINT jar.  Out of 2 Large Tuna, we ended up with 26 pints of canned Tuna.  Yes it ais a bit more expensive buying it that way, costs more than just store bought tuna, but number one we still know we are canning our own and not relying on other people or sources, number 2 we know exactly what is in the tuna we eat with no preservatives or chemicals or radiation or the like, and number 3 home canned fresh tuna is AMAZING!  If you have never had fresh off the Dock Albacore and home canned with out being watered down, chemicals added, cooked to almost a paste, you are missing out. When its home canned it tastes just like a nice Tuna Steak! Its firm, big and chunky, not overly salty, you get more of it per jar, and the taste is just freshly oceanic and delicious, it is to die for! 

So that is our update for today. We here at Helmig Farms thank you for taking the time to read our blog updates. A toaste to you all wishing you happy farming, wonderful living, and comfortable surviving. Thanks every one

Brush Removal Day (F**K*NG Sotch Broom!)

ImageLooking out my Living room picture window this morning, hot cup of Folgers in my hand, the aroma from the coffees steam drifting up my nostrils, and the sun beaming into the living room from the East. “This will be a great day to do some spraying!” I think to my self. I havn’t posted anything in about a week, i started a new job as a machinery operator and overtime has kept me pretty busy. Yesterday (Saturday) was my first chance in a week to tend to the farm. We have new baby goats born earlier in the week that have taken up my workday evenings in feeding and casterating and general care. So saturday i grabbed the trusty Troy Built brush cutter and set out on the 20 acres with a full tank of mixed gas and a vision. “Brush Be Gone!” here in northwestern Oregon “Scotch Broom” and “Tansie” are the two main culperates. Tansie will actually kill alot of livestock, especially cattle if they injest it. So it’s a must for removal. I spray the hell out of it every year. Or if I am walking by and see a plant I will try and pull it up by its roots, leaving the roots exposed to direct sunlight to kill the little bugger. The other bad weed we have is Scotch Broom. This stuff isn’t really poisonous to livestock, but it literally will completey take over a farm around here in a matter of a couple years! It’s a real booger to kill. It’s a bi-annual plant, so it only comes back every two years, so just when you think you got it all killed, cut, sprayed and all gone, the crop from year before last comes up and you got a whole new crop of the stuff. The other problem is seeding! There are probably 10,000 seeds on one single plant. So once it goes to seed, one single gentle wind and the stuff has seeded it self over literally 5 acres! I will admit during bloom it is very pretty, but it starts off like a thick 1 ft tall carpet, by the next year it is 6 feet tall. After a couple years, I am not exaggerating, this crap will be an inpenetrantable solid wall 12-15 ft high! Spreading and seeding itself every year along the way and spreading. Long story short, who ever got this stuff started here in the Pacific Northwest should have a red hot fire poker shoved up their ass! Every year i spray, and cut, and spray and cut and spray and cut. Our farm was over ran with the stuff when we got it, part of why we got it so cheap. Every year it’s a constant year long effort, and every year I gain about an acres worth, it’s a hard battle to just break even and keep the stuff nuetral with out getting worse, let alone making head way one it. But, what i have been doing and has been successful so far, is i spray it a few times when i can, then go and cut it off with the brush cutter. I build a fence around the area etending the pasture, and put goats in it for about 2 years, as they eat off any new shoots and seedlings coming up. This seems to work pretty well, but is not cheap, and is a lot of work. Any ways, so yesterday, I took out the brush cutter. I cut a piece about 3 acres in size (yes, by hand with a darn weed eater with a blad attatchment, hence what I mean by alot of work). Some of it was sprayed and dead, other spots were not, and were still healthy growing plants. I cut them off any ways, so at least they will not goto seed on me, I can keep it kind of nuetral this year, and allows me to focus my real hardcore scotchbroom killing and removal efforts in other locations. And since the sun is going to be out today, as soon as the morning dew is heated off the grass, and everything is dried up a bit, I’m gonna fill up my back pack sprayer and head off. I will do one pack sprayer of CrossBow to spot spray Scotchbroom, tansie, black berry vines, and any other broad leaf weeds vines and plants i do not want. Once that is done, i will mix up another backpack sprayer full of my own custom mix. I will mix 1/2 Crossbow (and not water it down as much as reccommded) and the other 1/2 will be Round-Up (It too will be a little more concentrated that recommended). The reason for this mixture, is i use it along my fence lines, the driveway, etc. It pretty much kills everything. My fences have a hot (electric) wire running about 10 inches off the bottom wire, so i spray the fence lines to keep things from growing into the electric fence and shorting it out. I do this every year, and the result is about 6 inches on both sides of the fence line, that is just bare dirt, where nothing grows. PERFECT! It also makes fence repairs, removal, etc ALOT easier not having grass and weeds and vines growing up through the fence and making it all tangles up and hard to get out of the ground. Also, the less organic matter that grows, the less that dies, which leads to the least amount of decomposed organic matter, resulting in a LACK of top soil getting taller and taller each year, which in turn for the general farmer means that the bottom wire of your fence pretty much remains where you originally put it, instead of the bottom wire getting covered by dirt, rusting off, and comprimising your fence strength, usability, and helps the bottom line of actually keeping critters inside the fence where you want them. In case some people are not familiar with general herbicide applications, CrossBow is very useful, and kills broad leaf plants only(It WILL NOT kill grass), it great for spot spraying unwanted plants, weeds, vines, etc and not killing all the grass or having big dead spots all over. Round-Up is another very useful spray, but it kills grass, and smaller kinds of weeds like dandilions and that sort of thing. This is great for spraying along fences, spraying driveways or walkways, around flower beds, that sort of thing. Always be sure to read labels, and try and think ahead of what you really want your end result to be. In other words, if you want grass around to grow and look nice, or to feed livestock, or to choke out young upcoming brush and weeds, then keep Round up the hell away! On the other hand, if you are trying to keep grass out and keep vines or berries or other broad leaf organics alive, then keep the crossbow away from it. As i write this I keep checking outside, the sun is up pretty good now, I can feel the heat from the window, telling me it’s about time to go out and start mixing up some weed killer! Thanks for listening folks.

Baby Goat Born, welcome to the family

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I was out chopping wood Yesterday and in my own little world. My wife came out to chat for a while and have a smoke, after a minute of brief chattign we noticed a goat in the pasture bellowing. “What in the hell is going on?” we thought. 2 Does are ready to have kids, but we figured probably not for another week or so. We went out to investigate, and that damned LLama was sitting on top of the female Alpine goat, squishing her, and she was screaming for all she was worth. We tried calling him, tried pushing him, tried pulling him off of her. That stubborn son of a bitch wouldn’t budge. (As you can tell the Llama is not my favorite animal! If the wife would let me i would have put a bullet in it a year ago! So any ways, heres this stupid dumb ass llama, smashing our pregnant goat and not budging. Finally about a 3 inch diameter and 6 foot long Fir Branch laying on the ground across his skull got him off her. Once he got off, we saw two baby goat feet sticking out of the back of her. “Oh great, here she was trying to give birth, and that stupid llama probably killed it. Any ways, we started helping her, i grabbed the baby feet, and not pulling but more keeping constant outward pressure as she pushed. Low and behold both the mama and the baby lived. That llama kept coming over snorting, kept trying to stomp the kid, and finally got another branch across the face. The wife picked up that baby Alpine Kid, i picked up the mommy, and we carried them over to a small Kid pen we have. That way momma and baby would have a safe place to nurture and grow. We also have a LaManche Goat that is pregnant and getting pretty big, she has a decent bag hanging already too, and I think they were bred just days apart. So I baited her into the Pig pen with some grain. (No, we do not have pigs in the pen at the moment, butchered them last fall and have not gotten any new piglets yet).  But now she will have a safe place to have her kid/s as well. The pig pen is about 80ftx60ft. Natural grass pasture, with a shelter shed about 6ftx6ft. Some large fir trees for shade, a feeder, a watering unit, and a high and low placed hot wire all around the fence. Actually it is a pretty ideal Goat pen. The smaller pen i have mama and baby in now is smaller and more McGuiver’d together. It is only about 6ftx15ft. It has one of those Igloo shaped large dog houses in it (young goats actually love that thing, fit inside it well and when older they love jumping and playing on it), it too has a feeder, and watering device is actually just one of those round plastic Kiddy pools for toddler swimming. It too is a dirt floor kind of pen, we do not run any livestock on concrete floored pens of any kind. This smaller pen does have a wire room i had built. (Doubles as a duck, turkey, and overflow chicken pen). I used just normal woven field wire for the roof, propped up every 6ft or to with Forked wooden hand cut posts. Works great, Any ways, i threw a couple of tarps over the wire roof and tied them off, making almost a Yurt style roof. This should keep the rain off mama and baby enough so he can get a little bigger and tolerate the wet and cold better. More updates to come. Another baby due any time.

Mulching and Wood Chip Day

As Spring continues here in the Pacific Northwest grass and weeds are starting to grow. I am seeing grass and weeds sprouting in our gravel driveway, and many other places around the farm that I will definately have to start spraying soon. I was thinking of this yesterday evening as i rolled myself a smoke, sat on the porch looking up the drive seeing all the scotchbroom turning dark green and healthy again. Darn stuff. I have about a 3 acre piece that is not fenced in yet, and goats and stock can’t be kept in there to keep the brush mowed down. So this particular piece of land, until i get it fenced, i have been keeping brush down by hand with herbicide, weed eaters, machette, and hand shears. Not very fun. And of coarse it has to be the brushiest, rockiest, most uneven piece of ground on the whole place where I can’t even take a mower into. Oh well. Any ways, was sitting on the porch last night, thinking about some fruit trees i have, some flower beds, and other things of that nature, and decided that with weather permitting I will make today mulch day. During the fall I save two large 100lbs feed bags (the white woven plastic strand kind). In one I pick up dead and fallen maple leaves and stuff it full. In the other I put wood shavings. The savings i get from cutting wood all year round. Sometimes when i have a big burly hunk of wood with knots every where I will just lay it on it’s side and use the chainsaw to split it into desired pieces. Yeah its more of a use of gas, but it saves having to beat and beat and beat on the darned thing, but also it gives me nice long wood shavings, which I use in around the place in lew of Bark Dust. Just a side note for folks, if you stand the block of wood upright and saw through it, the wood chips will be very fine, and powder like, if you lay it on its side and cut with the grain you will get those long strands I am talking about. Just a note.

Any ways, alot of fruit trees and flower beds (the ones that are planted already and sprouting up) will get a layer of crushed and crumbled broken up leaf bits (1/2 inch thick or so, maybe an inch) fallowed by an inch or more of wood shavings. Mulching helps retain moisture in the hot summer months, but it also help prevent grass and weeds poking up through. No it doesn’t totally stop them, but it does slow and impeede them. My only advice for others doing this, is I also take a soil ph tester with me as I do this. The wood shavings has potential of making the soil more acidic over time. each  year I test around the trees and beds, and ajust accordingly to what each species likes and needs. Happy gardening folks

Prepping and Zombies! Together Forever!

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It seems today that two sub cultures are really developing! They have both been around for years but are gaining momentum like runaway trains! One is Zombies! They are every where. Books, television, movies, radio, parties and gatherings, flash mobs, magazines, etc. The second gaining popularity is “Prepping”. Shows like “Doomsday Preppers” captures this group of people, whom of which are people that fear the ending of the world as we know it in some way shape or form. I too am a large Zombie fan. I love reading zombie fiction, and i love watching good zombie flicks (Yes I too am a huge “Walking Dead” fan!) I was just telling a prepper friend earlier today that he may want to netflix the whole series of walking dead due to the nature of end of the world preps and prepping ideas that can be drawn from the Zombie Apocalypse.  And so came this idea, why not write something about the combination of the two!

Now i am not talking making a new tv show with Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon, Cody Lundin, Joe Teti and dave canterbury mixing with a bunch of preppers and running from zombie hoards, however oh my god how cool of a show would that be! LOL. No, I mean for zombie fans you can learn alot of ideas for your zombie apocalypse by reading survival types of literature, survival books, watching shows like doomsday preppers, Dual Survival, things of that nature. And taking from those sources certain key points for your ultimate “Zombie escape and survival.” As I was telling my friend, there too is alot preppers can gain by watching and reading Zombie material. Sure the main threats are different, but as the saying goes “If you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for anything else!” 

Any ways, this was just a thought I had, survivalists, doomsday preppers, die hard zombie fans, we all have the same goals, and the same interests…. To stay alive when Sh*t Hits The Fan! We have alot to discuss with each other, lets learn together. God bless you all. Have a great evening.